Saturday, June 16, 2012

Faith in him alone

In Father Walter J. Ciszek, S.J'.s book He Leadeth me, we learn one man's story that begins in October 17, 1939 in Albertyn, Poland. The Soviets had come to town.

I hope to print some excerpts here as I continue to read the book. It is a remarkable story of faith.

Father Ciszek is the parish priest in this small town. He tells us that the Jesuit mission which had flourished for ten years in Albertyn was destroyed in a matter of weeks.

"Again and again, as I watched all this happen, I had to force myself not to think of the question that kept returning unbidden to mind: "Why has God allowed this evil to happen?" Why persecutions?...

...The perplexity and pain grew within me as I saw the visible Church, once strong and organized, dissolve under the attacks of these invaders and watched the people grow estranged, pressured ceaselessly into accepting this new order.

And what of the young people who were literally torn away from their parents and forced to join the Young Pioneers or Komsomol organizations, taught to report on any "deviations" of the old people at home? How frustrating it was to hear the Church and priests and religious openly slandered in communist propaganda, and to know that the children had to learn and repeat atheist doctrines every day in school and in their class work. How could God allow all this? And why?...

...It was not a crisis of faith, any more than it is for anyone who has ever suffered a great loss or faced a family tragedy and asked himself the same questions. It was rather a crisis of understanding, and no one need be ashamed to admit he has been troubled by it. Anyone who has done much reading in the Old Testament is familiar with those questions. "How long, Lord, how long will you allow our enemies to triumph over us?"

Most especially in the days after David, in the ages of captivity, when the glories of the golden age of Solomon were but a memory by the rivers of Babylon and Israel had been broken and led away in shame, does the question recur again and again. To Israel, surely, it must have seemed the end of the world, the end of the covenant, the end of God's special care for his chosen people.

Yet, from our vantage point in history, we know it was really quite the opposite. Israel's troubles were in truth a manifestation of Yahweh's special providence, his special love for his chosen people. Like a fond and loving father, he was trying to wean them away from trust in kings or princes or in armies or the powers of this world.

He was trying to teach them, again and again, that their faith must only be in him alone. He was leading them, through every trial and in every age, to the realization that God alone is faithful in all tribulations, that he alone is constant in his love and must be clung to, even when it seems all else has been turned upside down. Yahweh is still the Lord behind the events and happenings of this world; he can be found there and he must be sought in them, so that his will may be done.

It was he who had chosen them, not they him. It was he who had first made the covenant with them, who had led them and cared for them, shepherded and fed and guarded them in every tribulation. Their part in the covenant must be to trust in him alone, to remain always faithful, to look to him and not to other gods, to rely on him and not on rulers or on chariots or bowmen.

He was ever faithful and so in turn must they be, even when he led them where they would not go, into a land they knew not, or into exile. For he had chosen them, they were his people, he would no more forget them than a mother could forget the child of her womb."

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